Tell it to SunStar: If enacted, Tolentino’s proposal will spur crackdown on government officials, employees and their kin

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Rights group Karapatan criticized Sen. Francis Tolentino for his remarks made on Aug. 31, 2022 at the Senate. The lawmaker proposed measures requiring government employees to disclose information on their relatives who may have connections with so-called terrorist organizations.

“What Sen. Tolentino is suggesting is a crackdown on officials and employees in the public sector and their relatives, based on the much-questioned, vague and arbitrary definition of terrorism under our laws. If his proposals will be enacted, it will open the floodgates for possible violations on the right to due process, to freedom of thought or opinion, to privacy and other worse forms of threats to life, security and liberty of government workers and their families,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.

The group said “the senator’s proposal of a witch-hunt and pointless red-tagging in the public sector workforce is a huge disservice to the public, when there are too many issues that the people face and when government bureaucracy needs to efficiently and comprehensively function, amidst an economic crisis.”

“Isn’t it more important to check government officials and agencies who engage in influence peddling, graft and corruption for self-serving interests rather than make proposals on irrelevant issues?” Palabay further said.

Meanwhile, the group agreed with Sen. Loren Legarda in her comments addressing Tolentino’s statements, especially when she pointed out that having different political beliefs different from the status quo does not make one a subversive or a terrorist.

“Apart from her assertion of the fact that the anti-subversion law has been repealed, what can be gleaned from Sen. Legarda’s comments is the irony in a so-called democratic state, where the prevalent practice of government officials and State security forces remains to be that of intolerance for progressive beliefs, persecution and dangerous red-tagging,” said Palabay.

Karapatan lauded Legarda in calling for a review of the Anti-Terrorism Law and the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and encouraged other legislators to support these initiatives.

“Instead of listening to baseless ‘intelligence reports’ and conspiracy theories of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, lawmakers should undertake significant steps to address the roots of the armed conflict and ensure adherence to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. Among these measures are the review or repeal of the terror law and the resumption of the peacetalks between the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and NDFP,” Palabay said.